I’m a queer woman of color. I’m also a comic book fan. Sometimes, those things feel incompatible.
It’s easy to understand why it often feels like comic books are written for fifteen-year old boys (or gross man-children) who spend too much time in their basements. I mean, how is an exposed stomach and a bra two sizes too small practical superheroing gear? Spoiler: it’s not.
And don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate a woman’s body as well as the next lady-loving gal, but when it seems like the storyline is more focused on butts that butt-kicking, more excited about boob-windows than breaking windows, there’s a problem.
So, how did I get around this obstacle of objectification? I found comic books produced/written/illustrated by women who were like me. Queer women, women of color, women who understand the importance of intersectional feminism.
Marjorie M. Liu
Marjorie M. Liu’s graphic novel, Monstress is probably my favorite offering of the past year or so. It’s dark, violent, and beautiful. Published by Image comics, Liu brings forth a haunted, matriarchal world, inspired by 1900s Asia. It’s heavy on mythology and features a lead with a physical disability. Go treat your eyeballs to this graphic novel immediately.
What to read: Monstress vol. I and vol. II
Ah, Gail Simone. How do I describe Gail Simone? Anyone who fell in love with Birds of Prey back in the early 2000s knows of Simone’s awesome power. She’s known for clearing up (or shall we say queering up) Wonder Woman’s sexuality, along with Greg Rucka, and also penned one of the only good things to come out of DC’s New 52 series. Batgirl’s first issue in the series was was published in September 2011, and in it, Simone introduced a character named Alysia Yeoh, the first major transgender character written in a contemporary context in a mainstream comic book.
What to read: Secret Six #1-14, 16-36, Birds of Prey vol. 2, #1-13, Batgirl vol 1-5, #1-34
So, in researching Noelle Stevenson for this piece, I discovered that she’s 26, which infuriates me because she’s so goddamn talented. She’s the creator of the delightful and ridiculous comic Nimona, and a co-creator of Lumberjanes—one of the quirkiest, most inclusive comics out there. Trans heroines, queer scouts and general badassery. If you haven’t read Lumberjanes, what are you wasting your time reading this blog for? Go, go, go!
What to read: Lumberjanes, Nimona
Gisele Jobateh is an indie cartoonist based in Canada and the creator of the coolest cast of nonbinary characters you could imagine. Their comic Star Trip features planet-hopping heroes and adorable aliens. While they’re probably the most obscure artist on this list, I really appreciate Jobateh’s cutesy, quirky style.
What to read: Star Trip
You might have heard Roxane Gay’s name mentioned in the Twitter/Tumblrverse after great Hippolyta blessed us with Joss Whedon’s departure from the upcoming Batgirl project. Gay, who is openly bisexual (yeah, I snickered at that sentence, too), is probably best known for her collection of essays, Bad Feminist. Most recently, she’s co-written the now cancelled (grrr) World of Wakanda, which features lesbian couple, Aneka and Ayo, who are former members of Wakanda’s female security force. If you thought Black Panther was good, read World of Wakanda. And someone, give this woman the Batgirl movie!
What to read: World of Wakanda
This is only a sample of queer comic book artists who are amazing women changing the face of comics and geek culture. There are so many awesome, up and coming creators on the web, whose characters are more than just butts and boob-windows. As a once-disheartened comic-book fan, discovering these artists was a big moment, and reminded me that there is indeed a space in geek culture for women like me.
Copyright picture above: Pixabay/prettysleepy
Alex K. Thorne graduated from university in Cape Town, South Africa with a healthy love of the classics and a degree in English Literature. She spent the next few years, teaching across the globe, from Serbia to South Korea, also writing fanfiction, and developing a kimchi addiction. When she’s not picking away at her latest writing project, she’s immersing herself in geek culture, taking too many pictures of cats, and dreaming about where next to travel. Alex just published Chasing Stars as part of Ylva’s Superheroine Collection.
I’m a WOC and a huge geek/nerd (this is truly and understatement… I’m an astronomical geek/nerd) who raised her kids to love Marvel vs DC debating, to rock that ST: TNG on Netflix/Hulu streaming (even though that show was way before their time), and to know their Star Wars, 80/90’s cartoons, anime, web toons/comics (because I’m older than the internet, lol, this includes all those early flash based animated gems) and video gaming history/playing from Atari 2600 on up to the Nintendo Switch, even though they are all 2000’s kids. Yeah, we nerd out hard in this here house!
So… you had me at Dora Milaje lesbian couple! Definitely going to check out Roxanne Gay’s “World of Wakanda,” because, yeah, having two of the most badass WOC warrior women in all of media be ladies-who-love-ladies and that aspect be a real part of their stories/overall story and not just some window-dressing gimmick is just… phenomenal representation on top of phenomenal representation. Had this near the top of my TBR pile; I have so many bulky sci-fi/fantasy books that I’m currently reading (most 400 pages plus) that I’m going to fast-track World of Wakanda to reward myself. My eyes are so ready.
I also second Noelle Stevenson’s “Nimona.” It’s cute and hilarious and a wonderful send up of ‘a hero and his sidekick’ stories seeing as the hero is a ‘supervillain’ and the female ‘sidekick’ is so much more than just a sidekick. I purchased this one for my eldest daughter who loves graphic novels and manga (and who studies art and draws everything from comic panels to posters in her spare time), and she adores it.
I’ll add Tee Franklin’s “Bingo Love” graphic novel to the list, which she wrote & created but I believe was illustrated by several illustrators. Tee Franklin is a queer WOC with a disability, and her Bingo Love is about two WOC who fall in love at a church bingo game in the 60’s and who go through much following their families’ disapproval of their love, (heads up, but not a spoiler because this is explained in the Amazon book blurb: at various points they marry men to appease their families but then meet up again at a church bingo game decades later.) The story spans something like 60 years, so story goes from young love to mature love, so women 40+ rep too. I used to tag along with my aunts and cousins to church bingos, so it was a treat to have the main characters ‘meet cute’ in that hobby culture.
Yes, there is space in geek culture for nerdy queer women. And if there isn’t where you work & play & lay your head down at night, then create it like all the ladies on this list and the women at Ylva who wrote books in the Superheroines Collection series!
Author here. I just read Bingo Love this weekend, and WOW! It blew me away with how unapologetic it was when it came to all kinds of representation, particularly older black queer ladies. What a treat! Thanks for the recommendation.